Unguided second stage spins out of control

[1951 September 18 Illyrien Space Center]

Today, we tested a new design, The Soaring Spindle, in an attempt to brake the Kerbinian altitude record. The basic idea was to launch a seconds stage from the upper atmosphere, and have it, not the whole rocket, reach the desired altitude.

We faced several challenges in this. Firstly, we don’t actually have any engines for upper stages, we only have a single main engine, the  A-4, and one very tiny test engine called Aerobee. Therefore, we tried adding 16 of these, as propulsion for the upper stage. Along with hotstaging, that worked quite fine, and calculations where very favourable.

Second problem was stabilization. The tiny engines have no gimble, no vectoring, and without any atmosphere, we could not steer that way either. That also meant, that any instability in the ascent would be drastically magnified in the upper stage. In the end, we decided for a rifling approach, that is, the lower fins where tipped, so that atmospheric drag would rotate the engine.

Shortly after launch, unfortunately, the Spindle tipped 10 degrees, only to worsen a bit more. With its rapid spinning, we could not correct this, and the rocket soared off westwards.

Once the mainstage was burned out, the second stage was launched and soared, but at about 60 degrees, it exchanged altitude for distance, and only managed to reach 300km. It did however crash into the sea halfway to Texas.

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